* CME to pay next dividend in Dec to avoid tax hike
* Futures: Dow up 22 pts, S&P off 1 pt, Nasdaq flat
NEW YORK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Thursday in what could be another choppy
session as the progress of fiscal negotiations in Washington
continues to determine the market's fate.
* President Barack Obama said there could be a quick deal to
avert the "fiscal cliff" - tax hikes and spending cuts set to
begin next year, possibly driving the U.S. economy back into
recession - if Republican leaders agree to raise tax rates for
those making more than $250,000 a year.
* While Republican leaders in the House of Representatives
insist that raising tax rates on the rich is a no-go, some GOP
lawmakers now see it as inevitable to avoid the fiscal cliff.
* Several European equity benchmark indexes hit 2012 highs,
boosted by hopes a U.S. budget deal will be reached before the
year-end, and that the worst of Europe's debt crisis might be
* CME Group, the biggest operator of U.S. futures
exchanges, joined several companies Wednesday that were moving
2013 dividend payouts to this month to shield shareholders from
expected tax hikes in 2013. Without action from Congress in
coming weeks, George W. Bush-era tax cuts on capital gains and
dividends will expire at the end of 2012.
* S&P 500 futures dipped a point and were flat in
terms of fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking
into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on
the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose
22 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were flat.
* On the data front, the Labor Department releases
first-time claims for jobless benefits for the latest week at
8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast
a total of 380,000 new filings compared with 393,000 in the
* H&R Block, the biggest U.S. tax preparer, reported
a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss as its cost-reduction
measures continued to pay off.
* Apple Inc's rank in China's smartphone market,
fell to No.6 in the third quarter as it faces tougher
competition from Chinese brands, research firm IDC said
Thursday. Apple's 6.4 percent drop on Wednesday was its worst
daily performance since mid December 2008 and dragged down the
* The broad market seesawed Wednesday, with the S&P 500
dropping into negative territory before it rebounded off the
1,400 level, seen as a key technical support.